Body Image & Weight Loss – Does Losing Weight Make You Happy?

Body Image & Weight Loss – Does Losing Weight Make You Happy?

I have been a Personal Trainer for 17 years, and full-time for at least 10. I have always been obsessed with weight loss and body transformation. From the moment I spotted the first bit of fat on my body (around 12-13 years old), I became hooked on exercise, calorie counting, and beating myself up in the mirror. 

I was naturally ‘curvy’, meaning a bit soft and not very muscular. Being this shape in the 90’s meant not fitting into fashionable clothing brands, not being able to find bras and swimmers that fit, and finding that even the sportswear that did fit, made me look ‘chunky’. That’s what I thought anyways.  

There was also ZERO representation of averaged-sized women in the media. Remember, no internet in the 90’s 😉 

I bought into all the teen magazine hype and observed how ‘happy’ all the skinny girls in school seemed to be, and formed the belief that being skinnier would make me happier and that I would be treated more positively if I looked ‘better’. So I went about achieving the perfect ‘fitness body’. I was willing to do anything to achieve it, regardless of my overall health. I mean, health had no mention in the fitness world anyway; it was all about how you look. 

I did get pretty close to reaching my ‘perfect body’ but I did so at the expense of health. What came as a rude shock is, I still hated my body, even at 12% body fat. I just saw more flaws. I still felt like an imposter. I still felt not good enough

Body-image issues are rooted much deeper than outer appearance, and all women need to realise this. 

How much does our body image impact our lives in general? 

A study conducted by Dove including 13,000 participants, found that an astounding number of women and girls allow their body image issues to determine whether or not they participate in important life activities, and how they assert themselves or express their opinion to others. 

It also stated that most women of this mindset will consciously stop themselves from eating, whether or not their health is at risk. These are disturbing statistics, but I see this kind of behaviour in the women I coach on a daily basis. As you can see, I also felt this way myself. 

So this means that women aren’t reaching their full potential, when they’re constantly worrying about their bodies.

Are we actually happier when we are skinnier though? No, we are not. 

Who, or what, is to blame? 

We could certainly blame the media, who flood us with images of beautiful, unrealistic, heavily edited bodies. But that wont help us. Research into the topic, and deeper inquiry into my own issues lead me to understand that the problem is much deeper than ‘the media’. 

Generally speaking, when we feel unhappy or out of control, we tend to turn our attention to the ‘outside’ world. We try to mold ourselves to what we believe is socially acceptable. We attach our unhappiness to tangible things that we have conscious control over – more money, fancy car, a hot body, etc. 

We lose sight of what’s important and believe that by changing ourselves, we will somehow become happier, or more worthy. We forget that it’s who we are that counts the most. 

When we are happy with how we look, the rest of the world mirrors back to us that exact same feeling. People love you, when you love you. 

Being skinny will not make you happier, but being healthy will

By reaching a healthy weight (20-25% body-fat, or even up to 30% for some women), we are definitely closer to reaching our full potential due to increased energy, health, lowered inflammation, improved sleep, and the greater overall emotional wellbeing that accompanies hormone balance. 

Achieving a healthy weight also requires us to develop a healthy relationship with food, which is never a bad thing. 

What can I do to start healing my relationship with my body?

Firstly, stop looking at all these perfect women and wishing you could be just like them. Unfollow anyone that triggers you to feel low self-worth. Assuming they’re the picture of health and happiness can be detrimental, as you really don’t know what these people do behind closed doors. You can’t actually know if they’re a true inspiration to you, or if they are being honest. 

Switch your focus from calorie restriction and crash dieting (and beating yourself up) and focus on improving your health and vitality. Work out how many calories you need to eat for optimal health and start re-fuelling. You body composition will change all by itself if once you start nourishing it. I get all of my clients to increase calories and nourish their bodies before focusing on weight loss goals. 

Start looking within. Try to remember when it all started. Was it in school, or after carrying your first child? Was it something your mother always worried about? Once you identify where it started, you have better awareness and conscious awareness is the first piece of the puzzle when it comes to healing. 

For me personally, when I started attacking my body I was already experiencing some depression and anxiety. I had very low self-esteem. I kind of just decided it was my body because it looked different to other girls’ bodies, and I fixated on it. Additionally, my mum always hated her body, and complained about being ‘fat’. In a way, making my body look good was my way of proving I was high value to the world around me. 

How I coach women now

I still coach body transformation, even after this journey. I love it still and love working with women to optimize their health and body composition. I see it as kind of art form, a fun project you can work on and that you can carry around with you everywhere you go. 

What I have changed though, is my approach. I replaced the all-or-nothing, get-the-best-body-in-the-shortest-amount-of-time-possible approach, with one that focuses on reaching goals in a healthy way – adequate calories, no overtraining, and with a positive view of self. Almost always with my clients, some work has to be done here in the beginning stages, but the end result is that we build bodies they love and in a healthy way. 

It is unfortunate that we live in a world that values appearance over health, but it is pretty inescapable, especially with the addition of social media. Rather than getting angry about, it, or feeling victimised by it, we need to find our space within it to heal and nourish ourselves, so that when we see these ‘perfect’ women, we still feel great about our amazing selves! 

Jen x

Should all Personal Trainers have Abs?

Should all Personal Trainers have Abs?

I saw a post on Facebook the other day questioning whether trainers should have a six-pack before offering any kind of health/fitness advice. I LOLd a little bit, but then one of my clients who is almost qualified to PT was questioning her place in the industry as she is, in her opinion, not lean and muscular enough to succeed. I hear this a lot so, it got me thinking

This is me at 76kgs, after 16 years of working in the health and fitness industry. I started gym training when I was 15 and I’m now in my 30’s. Do I look perfect? Nope, I am sitting at 29% body fat. Am I a shit trainer? No. Should I stop offering advice because I’m not a size 8, and don’t reflect the ‘typical’ female trainer body shape of this time? Hell no

Limiting your idea of health and fitness-related knowledge to the presence/absence of a 6 pack and low body-fat is denying the existence of so many factors that affect one’s body composition. These include genetics (biggest one), life experiences, age, performance-enhancing drugs, stress levels, and the list goes on

Limiting the worth of a female trainer to the muscularity and leanness of her physique is a rejection of the many other aspects that make women beautiful/powerful: women are soft, wise, strong, intuitive, caring, etc. The more estrogen we have, the softer we are, and emotionally we absorb a lot of what happens around us. These traits, in my opinion, are essential when it comes to inspiring health and wellness amongst women.

This industry is very masculine, and it always has been. I have had to fight to embrace my femininity with it, and I see many women fighting the same battle. We aren’t all cookie-cutter body shapes as the fitness industry suggests us to be!

Your physical body reflects your triumphs but it reflects your scars too, and a little body-fat is not a bad thing when you are looking after yourself. Probably time women embrace that

JEN x

Perspectives on the ‘Perfect’ Female Body

Perspectives on the ‘Perfect’ Female Body

I love this picture as to me it represents how much my perspective has changed, both as a trainer and as a woman in this industry. Definitely not as strong or as lean as I once was, but stronger and healthier than ever in both body and mind

These days I liken the pursuit of this ‘perfect’ female physique to playing a game of soccer, but where the goal posts keep being moved and the shape of the ball keeps changing. You can NEVER reach it, and mainly because what also doesn’t change is your lack of perspective, which leaves you unable to recognize your own personal power or beauty even when it’s staring you right in the face.

In some ways I think the fitness industry has lost it’s way a little. I think women have lost sight of what’s achievable naturally, what is healthy, and where the truth lies. As a trainer I strive to be what I wish I had at the beginning of my journey, even if it doesn’t fit within the ‘norms’ of what is happening at this present time. My experiences have shaped me and I don’t budge on my principles, no matter what anyone says. I support my clients in any direction they choose to go, be it bodybuilding, powerlifting or whatever because I love and value them, but because their health is the top priority they are able to achieve more than I ever did

It’s important to remember that no matter who you are, you don’t have to be the hottest, skinniest, fittest, or strongest girl out in order to own your space in this world; you just have to be happy with yourself. Eat well because you love you body, lift weights because you love your body, but own your individual journey and remember it’s a different journey to everyone else’s

Body Positivity

Body Positivity

Stop hating your body. Reject all the negative thoughts because they have no right to define you. Build yourself up because you deserve it. You are more than a number, a goal, or disease. You are stronger than any perception anyone has ever had about you. You are unique.  

The most interesting thing I experience when working in this industry with women every day is how they perceive their own bodies.

Each woman looks at the others and tells me how beautiful they are; how they envy their shape, muscularity, height, hair, legs, abs, etc. But the funny thing is, the women they are talking about are saying the same thing about them.

The fitness industry, just like the beauty industry, is flooded with images of the ‘perfect’ body. But who defines what is perfect?? What is perfect to me is a woman who embraces her own body for all of its ‘imperfections’ (if you even want to call them that).

It’s astounding to see how many women approach their health and fitness journey in an attempt to be someone else, or to look like someone else. But consider this – if we all looked the same would it still be considered beautiful?? Or would it then become plain and boring?

It is hard to develop or maintain a healthy body image in a world that has so much exposure to media which is DESIGNED to make you feel inadequate, even I struggle with it at times. But in my experience as a ‘gym junkie’ and as a personal trainer, lifting weights is one of the most empowering things a woman can do. It not only gives us some control over the shape of our bodies, but it strengthens the mind and increases your overall confidence.

Eating nourishing foods to fuel your body will also allow you to think more clearly. The benefits aren’t only physical. You will be surprised how much poor food choices drain your body’s energy and cloud your perception.

So if you struggle with your own body image do yourself a favour and change the way you look at yourself. Try and embrace the things that make you different from the women around you.

We all have the ability to turn our bodies into our own masterpiece. I actually consider myself to be so lucky, as I get to see this happen every day.

Anyways I could write about this all day but the point is that loving yourself, and your own body is what is beautiful.

So stay positive 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Transformation is yours for the taking. 

Fill out the form below and your ebook with these 11 practical tips will be delivered directly to your inbox shortly. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!